1 Practical Strategies forincreasing Mobility Part of the Galvin Project to End Congestion by Baruch Feigenbaum Policy Study 422 August 2013
2 Acknowledgement This policy study is the independent work product of Reason Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt research institute headquartered in Los Angeles. This study is part of the Galvin Project to End Congestion, a project producing the solutions that will end traffic congestion as a regular part of life. To learn more about the Galvin Project, visit Reason Foundation Reason Foundation s mission is to advance a free society by developing, applying and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets and the rule of law. We use journalism and public policy research to influence the frameworks and actions of policymakers, journalists and opinion leaders. Reason Foundation s nonpartisan public policy research promotes choice, competition and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress. Reason produces rigorous, peer-reviewed research and directly engages the policy process, seeking strategies that emphasize cooperation, flexibility, local knowledge and results. Through practical and innovative approaches to complex problems, Reason seeks to change the way people think about issues, and promote policies that allow and encourage individuals and voluntary institutions to flourish. Reason Foundation is a tax-exempt research and education organization as defined under IRS code 501(c)(3). Reason Foundation is supported by voluntary contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. The views are those of the author, not necessarily those of Reason Foundation or its trustees. Copyright 2013 Reason Foundation. All rights reserved.
3 Reason Foundation Practical Strategies for Increasing Mobility in Atlanta By Baruch Feigenbaum Executive Summary Metropolitan Atlanta s transportation system has reached a critical juncture. Its highway and transit systems have failed to keep pace with population growth and changing travel patterns, and the result is congestion and a lack of mobility. As the Texas Transportation Institute has pointed out, Atlanta s average annual delay per auto commuter increased by 231 percent from , leading drivers to waste more than 142 hours in traffic and burn more than 63 million excess gallons of gasoline. Meanwhile, a study from Brookings Institution has noted that only 37 percent of metro Atlanta residents have access to transit, and that only 3.6 percent of jobs in the metro area are transitaccessible. Taken together, these problems have significant economic implications for Atlanta. For one thing, congestion and a lack of mobility reduce the effective size of the metropolitan area s labor market, since people are able to reach fewer jobs within a reasonable time. That reduces productivity and economic output, and damages Atlanta s competitiveness. It also shrinks people s circles of opportunity, limiting their possibilities in entertainment, recreation and social life. This transportation plan aims to end traffic congestion as a regular part of life in metropolitan Atlanta and to dramatically increase the mobility of its residents. In trying to accomplish this, the plan does not focus solely on improving specific corridors or encouraging specific transportation modes. Rather, it prioritizes the development of a comprehensive highway and transit network for the entire region, outlines the practical strategies that can deliver such a network, and then identifies the projects that could make it a reality. Crucially, this plan also proposes an approach to funding its recommendations that requires no new tax revenue.
4 A Managed Lanes Network for Atlanta s Freeways In the short run, simply adding lane-miles to the freeway network can ease traffic bottlenecks and reduce congestion. But simple capacity expansion is only a temporary solution. First, it is difficult (and expensive) to keep up with a metropolitan area s growth. Second, capacity expansion tends to induce additional demand for road space by encouraging drivers to satisfy previously unmet travel goals. Therefore, while this plan does propose 14 projects to add general-purpose lane capacity on Atlanta s freeways, capacity expansion of this sort does not play a major part in its strategy to reduce congestion and increase mobility. Instead, this plan adopts a smarter approach, making the vast majority of new freeway lanes subject to dynamic pricing. While access to these Managed Lanes is free of charge for buses and vanpools, other drivers have to pay a variable toll to use them. That toll varies according to traffic conditions, which helps manage demand and keep traffic in the new lanes flowing smoothly at all times (as well as producing a new revenue stream). By arranging these Managed Lanes as a network across metropolitan Atlanta, consistent travel times can be guaranteed for transit users, carpoolers, and anyone willing to pay the requisite toll. Establishing a Managed Lane network is already a major part of Atlanta s transportation infrastructure agenda. Accordingly, this plan updates HNTB Corporation s 2010 Atlanta Regional Managed Lanes System Final Report for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), taking into account which components of the network have already been built, are under construction, or are soon to break ground. There are differences between the HNTB report and this plan, however. One key change is that this plan proposes using pylon barriers not concrete ones to separate Managed Lanes from the rest of the freeway. This has several advantages: first, they do not damage vehicles that need to cross the barrier in an emergency; second, they are less costly to install. This change, coupled with the effect of the recession and lower material costs in Georgia, allows this plan to revise the projected cost of the Managed Lane network down by 30 percent. In addition, this plan only allows buses and vanpools toll-free access to the new, grade-separated Managed Lanes, whereas the HNTB report assumed toll-free access for cars carrying three or more people. This change will slightly increase the percentage of the network s costs that can be covered through toll revenue. On the other hand, due to lower vehicle-miles traveled growth rates and other factors, this plan counts on a somewhat smaller private sector contribution to the cost of the network (50, rather than 55, percent). A map of the proposed Managed Lanes network, which unlike the HNTB report includes a northsouth tunnel connecting I-675 and SR 400 and a new east west bypass north of metropolitan Atlanta, can be seen on page 42. The total cost of the network, including the reconstruction of 19 associated freeway interchanges, is estimated at $16.5 billion over 30 years, with $7.5 billion of that coming from the private sector.
5 Creating an Arterial Highway Network One area where this plan goes far beyond the Atlanta Regional Commission s existing long-range plan is in its proposals for a significantly upgraded arterial highway network to support Atlanta s over-burdened freeways. Such a network is essential in a low density, post-world War II metropolitan area like Atlanta, in which the central business district accounts for a tiny percentage of jobs and suburb-to-suburb commuting is the dominant pattern of travel. As things stand, however, Atlanta lacks the effective grid of major arterial highways that in other Sunbelt metro areas provide the critical backbone of the transportation network. In fact, Atlanta s arterial system was never adequately developed and is today one of the least effective major metropolitan area networks in the country. This coupled with the fact that Atlanta s freeway system is predominantly radial in nature that is, designed to feed traffic to and from the central business district imposes a serious constraint on mobility. Therefore, this plan proposes the use of grade separation, access management, intelligent transportation systems and strategic capacity expansion to upgrade 11 existing arterials into a network of major primary arterials that offer an alternative to the existing freeway network, at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion over 30 years. A map of the proposed network can be seen on page 51. One feature of the proposed major primary arterial network worth noting is that the five new gradeseparated interchanges on SR 141 would be managed underpasses or overpasses. Drivers would pay a small, variable toll to use the underpass and avoid waiting at the intersection; transit vehicles and some carpoolers would be able to use them for free. As with Managed Lanes, tolling these underpasses creates a revenue stream and allows demand to be managed so as to establish moreconsistent and -reliable travel times. How Will These Highway Improvements Be Funded? In total, the highway and intelligent transportation systems aspects of this Atlanta plan, combined with similar plans for the rest of the state, will cost an estimated $29.9 billion over 30 years. Dedicating all of Georgia s gas tax revenue to transportation, removing gas tax exemptions and enacting a modest fee on electric vehicles will cover more than 85% of the total cost. The specific components of this package include the following: Shift the remaining quarter of the revenue from the 4 percent statewide gasoline sales tax from the general fund to transportation uses. This shift will generate $5.8 billion over 30 years. Dedicate the revenue from all special purpose local option sales taxes paid on gasoline to transportation. This change will generate $18.6 billion over 30 years.
6 Eliminate all gas-tax exemptions for state vehicles. For state vehicles alone this will raise $1 billion over 30 years. The additional revenues needed for the highway and intelligent transportation system proposals contained in this plan will come from the use of public-private partnerships to build Managed Lanes (generating $7.6 billion over 30 years), and all-electronic-tolling on Managed Lanes and Managed Arterials (generating $2.9 billion over 30 years). TIFIA loans will help finance a portion of the public resources, while Private Activity Bonds will help finance a portion of the private resources. Establishing an Effective Transit Network Just as metropolitan Atlanta lacks a grid of major arterial highways, so too it lacks a comprehensive grid network for transit users. The MARTA heavy-rail network, which resembles a plus sign, is far too core-focused to be useful to many commuters in a decentralized metropolitan area like Atlanta. Significantly expanding it, moreover, is an unaffordably expensive proposition and most likely a losing one too, given that only one station on the existing network has a surrounding population density high enough to justify heavy rail service. Meanwhile, the metropolitan area s bus network is split between five different transit operators and displays little integration with MARTA rail service, inadequate route co-operation, differing fare structures, and patchy geographic coverage. This plan proposes that rather than waste time pursuing additional rail lines, policy makers should refocus MARTA on maintaining and improving its existing network, and then invest in the construction of cost-effective bus lines. This should take two main forms. First, this plan recommends adding 120 new local bus routes in the 13-county Atlanta region. Second, this plan recommends adding at least 20 new bus rapid transit (BRT) and express bus lines and identifies the most promising corridors for such bus service (as shown on page 15). In many respects, BRT is a low-cost alternative to heavy or light rail. Express bus, similarly, is a low-cost alternative to commuter rail. As a result, expanded express bus and BRT service would complement MARTA rail to create a far more effective transit grid network than currently exists. Furthermore, expanding BRT and express bus creates an opportunity to take advantage of this plan s highway and intelligent transportation systems proposals. First, buses can use Managed Lanes free of charge. The guaranteed service levels and reliable travel times such lanes offer will be a considerable benefit to transit users. Second, this plan s arterial highway proposals include the use of transit-signal priority systems, queue jumps, and grade-separated underpasses and overpasses all of which get transit vehicles through intersections faster, making transit travel times shorter and more reliable.
7 This plan also proposes three operational reforms to improve transit service in metropolitan Atlanta. First, in an effort to reduce costs and improve service, transit agencies should consider introducing contracting and competitive bidding across all their transit operations. Second, agencies should implement distance-based and time-of-day pricing. If structured correctly, this would increase ridership and revenue while also supporting more demand-responsive service provision. To offset potentially higher fares on some routes at some times, transit agencies should also consider offering vouchers to some low-income riders. Finally, Atlanta policy makers should consider establishing a mobility management center (modeled on Denver s) to coordinate different agencies services and technologies and ensure that they function together as an effective network. In the absence of a functioning free market in metropolitan transit, some entity needs to play this role. How Will an Expanded Transit Network be Funded? This plan recommends that metropolitan Atlanta s counties maintain their transit funding at current levels, and that this be supplemented with annual match grants totaling $66.6 million from the state government, which will help them to fund the expansion of local bus, express bus and bus rapid transit networks. This is accomplished without the need for any additional tax revenue by shifting funds from other departmental budgets to transit, where it will deliver more bang-for-the-buck. Specifically, this plan recommends moving responsibility for funding transit from GDOT where it will always play second fiddle to highways to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). DCA's transit program should then be given an annual budget of $120 million enough to cover new match funding for bus network expansion, and the establishment of the mobility management center. It is beyond the scope of this research to determine exactly where in existing state budgets this funding should come from, but with an overall budget of $16 billion and recent revenue growth, the state should not find it difficult to redirect $120 million annually to supplement transit. Many agencies have seen large increases in state funding, or are expecting them between FY 2013 and FY Diverting parts of these increases to support transit service would in many instances represent a much better use of taxpayer resources. Lastly, this plan encourages local governments and/or transit agencies to consider using value capture likely through tax increment financing to generate additional funding for bus rapid transit lines. This should raise at least $500 million over 30 years. Value capture could also be used to support MARTA rail, in combination with the existing MARTA special sales tax and, where necessary, grant anticipation notes.
8 Conclusion The proposals contained in this plan would give metropolitan Atlanta the comprehensive highway and transit networks it needs without requiring any new tax revenue. The plan would strengthen the user-pay/user-benefit principle on Atlanta s roads, leverage significant private funds to deliver vital infrastructure, and give transit-dependent Atlantans faster, more extensive and more reliable service. This plan would reduce congestion and increase mobility, with all the economic and social benefits that entails. Needless to say, this is a long-range plan. Delivering the projects proposed here could take as long as 30 years. But the time for decisive action is now; the sooner Georgia s policy makers get started on implementing this plan s recommendations, the better metropolitan life will be for all Atlantans.
9 R eason Foundation Table of Contents Introduction... 1 A. Existing Transportation Plans in the Atlanta Region... 2 B. A Different Approach... 5 C. The Interrelated Nature of Highways and Transit... 6 A Lack of Mobility... 8 A. Major Congestion... 8 B. Insufficient Transit C. Costs of Congestion and Reduced Mobility to Atlanta s Economy Congestion in Atlanta: Its Sources and Potential Solutions A. Sources of Congestion B. Potential Solutions to Congestion Managed Lanes and Freeway Capacity A. Managed Lanes Network B. Expressways or Freeways Outside Metro Atlanta C. New Freeway General-Purpose Capacity New Arterial Highways and Managed Arterial Highways A. Major Primary Arterial Highways B. Other Arterial and Local Road Improvements Transit A. MARTA Rail B. Local Bus C. BRT and Express Bus D. Vanpools E. Casual Carpooling F. Demand-Response Transit Service Revenue and Financing A. Funding Sources B. Financing Sources C. The Complete Funding and Financing Package Conclusion... 72
10 Appendix A: More Details on Public-Private Partnerships Appendix B. Managed Lane Projects and Phasing Appendix C: Traffic Volume Counts for General Purpose Lane Widening Appendix D: Other Road Projects Appendix E: Existing Express Bus Lines Appendix F: Current Transit Services in Metro Atlanta Endnotes Figures Figure 1: Growth in Atlanta s Travel-Time Index... 9 Figure 2: Growth in Atlanta s Delay per Peak Traveler (Hours of Delay)... 9 Figure 3: Atlanta Figure 4: Dallas Figure 5: Minneapolis Figure 6: Freeway Lane Miles vs. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled Figure 7: Map of MARTA Heavy-Rail Network Figure 8: Traffic Throughput versus Speed Figure 9: Transit and Employment Access Broward County, FL, and Tarrant County, TX Figure 10: Managed Lanes Figure 11: Additional General Purpose Lanes Figure 12: Interchanges Needing Reconstruction Figure 13: Major Primary Arterial Highways Figure 14: Major Primary Arterials' New Grade-Separated Interchanges Figure 15: Full Highway Network Figure 16: New Express Bus/BRT Service Figure F1: MARTA Bus Service Figure F2: Cobb Community Transit Network Figure F3: Gwinnett County Transit Map Figure F4: Xpress System Map... 90
11 Tables Table 1: PLAN 2040 Funding for Major Program Areas in Millions of 2012 Dollars... 4 Table 2: PLAN 2040 Percentage Share of Funds... 4 Table 3: Work-Trip Distribution in 1990, 2000 and Table 4: Comparative Data on Freeways and Arterials, Table 5: Recurrent and Nonrecurrent Congestion Table 6: Metro Atlanta Freeway Bottlenecks Ranked in Top Table 7: Recent Interchange Reconstruction Projects Table 8: Additional Metro Atlanta General-Purpose Lanes Table 9: Interchanges Needing Reconstruction Table 10: Major Primary Arterial Highways Table 11: Major Primary Arterials New Grade-Separated Exhanges Table 12: Promising Arterial BRT/Express Bus Lines Table 13: Differences Between Traditional Toll Plazas and All-Electronic Tolling Table 14: Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Plan, Costs and Funding Sources Over 30 Years Table B1: Tier 1 Projects (currently under construction or in preliminary engineering) Table B2: Managed Lane Ramps, Tier 1 Projects Table B3: Tier 2 Projects (can be constructed in the next ten years with limited new resources) Table B4: Tier 3 Projects (can be constructed in the next ten years with significant new resources). 79 Table B5: Interchange Movements for Tier 3 Projects Table B6: Tier 4 Projects (can be constructed in the next years with significant new resources)80 Table B7: Interchange Movements for Tier 4 Projects Table B8: Tier 5 Projects (can be built in the next years with significant new resources) Table B9: Interchange Movements for Tier 5 Projects Table B10: Tier 6 Projects (can be built in the next years with significant new resources) Table B11: Interchange Movements for Tier 6 Projects Table C1: Traffic Count Data Table D1: Miscellaneous Arterial and Local Road Improvements Table E1: Existing Express Bus Lines... 86
12 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR INCREASING MOBILITY IN ATLANTA 1 Part 1 Introduction Metropolitan Atlanta s transportation system is at a critical juncture. The current system is inadequate. Both the highway and the transit systems feature partially built networks with limited options and no alternate routes. Atlanta also lacks a comprehensive transportation plan that all the region s political leaders accept. Further, as a result of the gas tax s declining purchasing power and the redirection of state monies away from transportation, funding is limited. And the first two factors make a solution to the funding problem that much more challenging. Inaction, however, is not improving Atlanta s transportation problems. According to the 2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute, it currently takes 23 percent longer to go somewhere during rush hour than to make the same trip by automobile outside of rush hour. 1 In 1982, it only took 8 percent longer to travel during rush hour. From 1982 to 2010, the annual delay per auto commuter grew from 13 hours to 43 hours, a stunning 231 percent increase. Freeway vehicle-miles traveled increased from 14.3 million miles to a record 49.5 million miles. And in 2010 commuters wasted more than 142 million hours in traffic and burned more than 63 million excess gallons of gasoline. 2 Future prospects are not encouraging. These increases in delays occurred despite the Great Recession and despite a 10 percent unemployment rate in the Atlanta metro area during 2009 and When economic growth returns, delays will worsen. In 2030, delays are forecasted to be double those of Delays have serious economic costs beyond wasted time. The current level of congestion imposes significant costs on individuals, businesses and the regional economy. The Urban Mobility Report estimates that the 51 hours Atlanta commuters spend stuck in traffic each year amount to a cost of $1,120 per commuter of travel delay and excess fuel consumed for a total cost of $2.5 billion to metro Atlantans. 4 Since Atlanta is a logistics crossroads, traffic creates substantial freight delays. The total cost for trucks for 2010 totaled $775 million. 5 Another major problem with mobility in Atlanta lies in its transit system. Transit users face a multitude of different agencies, some of which have different rules and fares. While progress has been made in transit-agency coordination, the transit network is mostly a collection of local city, county or two-county networks with poor connections. Cost cutting has eliminated buses for transit-dependent riders, and no transit agency, including the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional
13 2 Reason Foundation Transit Authority (MARTA) and the state-run Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA), has a sustainable revenue stream. Business leaders and transportation policy makers are concerned about mobility in the region. Both state and local plans establish transportation goals and direct federal, state and local money to specific projects. A. Existing Transportation Plans in the Atlanta Region The Atlanta region is governed by two major transportation plans: The Atlanta Regional Commission s (ARC) PLAN 2040 (ARC is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization [MPO] in the Atlanta region); and The Georgia Department of Transportation s (GDOT) Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan. PLAN 2040 serves as both the regional transportation plan and regional comprehensive plan defining both transportation and land use policy and investment strategies to address regional needs across multiple planning emphasis areas, according to the ARC. 6 The plan consists of transportation, land use, environmental, economic, housing and human-services components. In the plan, the ARC modeled three different transportation scenarios: ultra sprawl, concentrated growth and local policy. 7 The ultra sprawl scenario examined conditions if all of the region s growth occurred in rural areas, while the concentrated growth scenario examined conditions if all of the region s growth occurred inside the perimeter (defined by the I-285 beltway) and around transit stations. The local policy scenario balanced the ultra sprawl and concentrated growth scenarios. After analyzing the three scenarios, the ARC eliminated the ultra sprawl scenario because travel distances and infrastructure construction costs would be unsustainably longer. It also eliminated the constrained growth scenario because it would lead to severe localized congestion and the highest congestion costs of any scenario. The constrained growth scenario also documented that land-use changes, no matter how severe, cannot improve transportation congestion on their own. The ARC chose to proceed with the local policy scenario, which is a middle ground between the constrained growth and the ultra sprawl scenarios with development patterns clustered around regional centers and somewhat higher densities in the rest of the metro area. While the ARC had good reasons for choosing the middle road, there are two concerns about this policy. First, the challenge with sprawl is the increased infrastructure costs associated with lower density if residents do not pay the full costs. And while the local policy scenario reduces sprawl, it does not eliminate it. Nevertheless, creating a system where infrastructure users pay by the mile is a better solution than creating arbitrary boundaries for development. The other problems
14 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR INCREASING MOBILITY IN ATLANTA 3 commonly associated with sprawl, such as farmland loss, limited access to water, and pollution, are exaggerated and can be managed through other programs. Second, a component of the ARC s strategy the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) may decrease both transit use and employment if implemented incorrectly. LCI encourages dense, mixed-use development in both the central city and the suburbs. It is more realistic than other schemes, which concentrate all development in the region s core. But LCIs and other transit-oriented developments (TODs) may harm low-income individuals. This is because incentivizing development in specific areas may induce high-income individuals to relocate to those areas but also force out low-income individuals either through demolition of their homes or through unaffordable increases in property taxes. These low-income individuals, who are often transit-dependent, may be forced to relocate to areas far from transit. Such a scenario simply moves people around; it does not improve land use. The new high-income residential development is often significantly less dense than the lower-income housing it replaced. The high-income individuals use transit less than the low-income residents they displaced, and transit use decreases. Since the low-income, transit-dependent riders have lost access to transit, some former residents may no longer be able to access their jobs, thereby increasing unemployment and reducing economic activity. This outcome is not the intent of TODs, but TODs can in certain circumstances do more harm than good. On a statewide basis, GDOT is implementing the Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan, which covers both state and local projects. GDOT s plans are focused on improving mobility in three major areas: 1. Statewide freight and logistics. The plan seeks to invest $15 billion over the next 20 years in limited-access highways, rail capacity improvements, regional improvements and bottleneck removal. 2. People mobility in metro Atlanta. The plan adds a network of Managed Lanes in the Atlanta metro area. 3. People mobility in the rest of the state. The plan adds capacity on arterials and freeways for congestion relief and to improve safety. Cities, counties, transit agencies and other state transportation entities have transportation plans that the MPO or GDOT examines. If these plans are feasible and have a realistic chance of receiving funds, they are incorporated into the MPO s long-range plan (PLAN 2040), its shorterterm metro area Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and/or GDOT s State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Many different agencies/governments have transportation plans. Gwinnett County s has plans for new roads and bus service. In the Atlanta region, the State Road and Tollway Authority in cooperation with GDOT has plans for new toll lanes. GRTA has plans for enhanced regional bus service. MARTA has plans for expanded rail and bus service. The ARC and GDOT study these plans and either incorporate them into the long-range transportation plan and when funding becomes available the TIP/STIP or discard them. 8
15 4 Reason Foundation Since this report focuses on metro Atlanta, the following section more closely examines the funding in PLAN The plan breaks funding into three main categories: system modernization, demand management and system expansion. 9 Tables 1 and 2, below, display both the funding totals and percentages for each level of government and transportation category. Table 1: PLAN 2040 Funding for Major Program Areas in Millions of 2012 Dollars Project Types Federal State Local Private Totals System Modernization Transit 3, ,184 22,836 Roadway/Bridge Preservation 8,884 5,189 2,333 16,406 System Optimization and Safety 1, ,819 3,554 Demand Management Bicycle and Pedestrian ,583 Other Programs/Initiatives System Expansion Managed Lanes Expansion 994 1,181 3,177 5,353 Transit Expansion , ,490 Roadway Expansion 4,670 1,047 1,456 7,173 Totals 21,727 8,325 27,588 3,327 60,967 Source: Atlanta Regional Commission, PLAN 2040 Table 2: PLAN 2040 Percentage Share of Funds Project Types Federal State Local Private Overall Share of Total System Modernization Transit Roadway/Bridge Preservation System Optimization and Safety Demand Management Bicycle and Pedestrian Other Programs/Initiatives System Expansion Managed Lanes Expansion Transit Expansion Roadway Expansion Total % of Funding per Governmental Level Source: Author s calculations based on PLAN 2040 PLAN 2040 s $61 billion price (in 2012 dollars) is fiscally constrained and meets all federal and state guidelines, but its impact on congestion reduction will be minimal. And the plan is only feasible assuming federal transportation funding continues at its current level, which may be unsustainable.
16 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR INCREASING MOBILITY IN ATLANTA 5 PLAN 2040 has many positive aspects. It spends more than 70 percent of its funds on crucial maintenance, operation and efficiency improvements to current infrastructure (system modernization). These projects include road resurfacing, bus replacement and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) signal timing and maintenance. System expansion, which totals 26 percent of spending, includes expanding Managed Lanes, general roadways and transit. Of this amount, PLAN 2040 spends about 45 percent on projects that expand highways, about 33 percent on projects that expand both highways and transit, and about 22 percent on projects that expand transit. PLAN 2040 also has several negatives. It is based on the ARC s Concept 3 transit vision that tries to be all things to all people. First, Concept 3 s $16 billion cost is not fiscally constrained. 10 Second, its cost estimates are on the low side. For example, Concept 3 estimated that the full Atlanta BeltLine loop would cost $840 million. A later ARC report, however, estimated the cost of two small sections of it at more than $600 million. 11 Third, the report recommends extensive commuter-rail extensions without realistic cost forecasts. The rail tracks in Atlanta are owned by two freight operators: Norfolk-Southern and CSX. Freightrail companies typically give priority to their trains over passenger-rail operators. For commuter rail to be viable, a passenger-train operator would have to pay to lease the tracks and develop a track sharing joint-scheduling operation with the owners. Today, many of the current singletracked lines have little room for additional trains. Many of these single-track sections would have to be double tracked, which would require using eminent domain to purchase highly valued land. Additionally, some of these track sections are deficient for passenger rail and would have to be rebuilt. None of these costs leasing, rebuilding or double-tracking are included in Concept 3. Fourth, while metro Atlanta needs to expand its bus operations, some of the proposals are not realistic. For example, the suburban bus routes from Acworth to Peachtree Corners, from Canton to Gwinnett Place Mall, and from Marietta to Lawrenceville on local unimproved arterial roads are each estimated to take almost two hours during rush hour. 12 Concept 3 did not include any ridership projections. It is doubtful these buses would secure significant ridership. Finally, while PLAN 2040 is a good start, it does not do nearly enough to relieve congestion or improve mobility. B. A Different Approach This report takes a different approach to solving Atlanta s transportation challenges. Many longrange plans written by both state DOTs and MPOs are corridor-focused: they emphasize making specific improvements to specific roads. This Reason Foundation transportation plan takes a different approach by prioritizing the development of a highway and transit network and then selecting the individual projects needed to build that network. This plan does not achieve radically different results; most of the projects outlined here are also in PLAN By focusing on the
17 6 Reason Foundation county, region and state and not on one specific road or transit line, however, our plan adds projects necessary to create a comprehensive network. The Reason Foundation plan also addresses the biggest problem of any transportation plan: funding. It dedicates transportation revenue to transportation purposes and frees up significant additional funding. Additionally, it provides a roadmap with specific steps that detail how Georgia can better spend its resources by leveraging public funds with private funding sources to maximize the benefits of public fund expenditures. Finally, this transportation plan builds on Reason s previous report on mobility in Atlanta Reducing Congestion in Atlanta: A Bold New Approach to Increasing Mobility by Robert W. Poole, Jr. by including updated projected costs, a greater focus on transit and specific implementation details. C. The Interrelated Nature of Highways and Transit Traditionally, more liberal groups have favored constructing mostly transit facilities while more conservative groups have favored building highways. Major metro areas such as Atlanta need both, which requires a comprehensive road strategy and a comprehensive transit strategy. While highways and transit have been pitted against each other, the two can complement each other. New Managed Lanes on freeways provide a guaranteed travel time to carpoolers, vanpoolers, bus riders and express bus/bus rapid transit (BRT) riders, as well as solo commuters. Bus pullouts and turn lanes shared with cars on arterial roads allow buses to use traffic-signal prioritization to avoid waiting at intersections. These features give buses shorter travel times and more reliable schedules. Better bus service can also reduce travel times for cars on the existing road if it attracts some drivers out of their cars. Traffic-signal synchronization can decrease travel times for both transit customers and drivers. And proper maintenance of the MARTA heavy-rail system is critical to keeping the system in good working order and eliminating more expensive maintenance over the long-term. Highway and transit groups need to work together to solve the region s transportation problems. Highway proponents need to consider that continually widening highways without adjusting pricing has limited effectiveness. Transit proponents need to consider that for the cost of building two or three rail-transit lines, Atlanta could build a comprehensive, region-wide BRT network. Plan 2.0 s detailed recommendations include: A comprehensive highway and arterial network. This network would have a Managed Lane network on freeways; a primary arterial network, with major corridors converted to Managed Arterials; and other, targeted expansions (e.g., missing links or roads needed to complete a roadway network).
18 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR INCREASING MOBILITY IN ATLANTA 7 A comprehensive transit network. Existing MARTA heavy-rail service, enhanced local bus service, express buses and BRT would operate in a network. The lack of a quality transportation system is a major problem in metro Atlanta. The ARC s Plan 2040 is a good start, but aspects of the local option growth plan, the Livable Centers Initiative and especially the Concept 3 transit plans do not represent the best options for metro Atlanta. This Reason Foundation transportation plan can help solve Atlanta s congestion and mobility problems by employing a regional instead of a corridor focus. Further, this plan has a realistic funding source and works to integrate highways and transit.
19 8 Reason Foundation Part 2 A Lack of Mobility Despite the economic recession and stabilizing vehicle-miles traveled, most metro Atlanta highways remain very congested. This occurs in Atlanta for three main reasons. First, the expansion/reconstruction of freeways and arterial roads has not kept pace with growth. Second, politics has prevented road construction in needed areas and required it in unneeded areas. Third, some cities do not consider elimination of congestion a priority. But while congestion is often a sign of an economically successful metro area, the failure to tackle it can significantly harm the metro area s economic prosperity going forward. Moreover, despite increased interest in transit, metro Atlanta transit service continues to be a patchwork of systems that fails to form a connected network. This occurs for two reasons. First, metro Atlanta has weak transit service that offers fewer routes today than ten years ago. Second, politics has prevented transit expansion in needed areas and required it in unneeded areas. Third, by waiting for more expensive rail lines, many policy makers are forgoing the more immediate construction of cost-effective bus lines. While transit will never be used by a majority of metro Atlanta residents, a lack of cost-effective transit limits economic prosperity. A. Major Congestion Traffic congestion was not always a major problem for Atlanta. During the 1970s and 1980s, despite substantial growth, Atlanta s congestion was modest for a very large metro area (one with more than three million people), as indicated in Figures 1 and 2, below. While Atlanta s travel-time index was significantly less than the national average in 1982 and 1992, it exceeded the national average in 2002 and And while the delay per peak traveler decreased between 2002 and 2011, the delay was much higher in 2011 than in 1982 or The biggest problem is that Atlanta s population has grown much faster than its highway system has grown. Also, as the metro area s population has dispersed and residents travel patterns have changed, Atlanta has not updated its road network to serve these new travel patterns.
20 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR INCREASING MOBILITY IN ATLANTA 9 Figure 1: Growth in Atlanta s Travel-Time Index Atlanta Average of very large areas Source: Graph composed from data in the Texas Transportation Institute s 2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report Figure 2: Growth in Atlanta s Delay per Peak Traveler (Hours of Delay) Atlanta Average of very large metro areas Source: Graph composed from data in the Texas Transportation Institute s 2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report